I went down the neglected steps to the calanque as far as I could go. Three hundred and twenty one steep and sometimes precarious stairs stopped short of the beach as the narrow walkway to the sand had been washed away in a storm and never rebuilt.
I hesitated but in the end I decided to make my way to the water and find a spot in which to sit and let the Med wash my thoughts out to sea.
I could see a small tide pool that looked inviting and went to meet it.
A little brown sprite dressed in sea weed sat at the edge. Her feet in the water, face turned to the sun, eyes closed, she was smiling and humming some strange sounds.
“You look happy” I said.
“Happy? I don’t know that word” she replied, inviting me to explain, to define…
“It is a feeling inside your heart that makes you want to smile, moves you to sing. It makes you want to embrace the sky and thank life for being. When people are happy, they feel like the universe loves them and they are no longer alone.”
“Ah! That’s what we call First Feeling” she nodded and explained: “Babies cry when they come into the world, but sprites giggle.”
The sun was playing with the water, sending sparkles and flashes on her brown skin, and reflecting lights on seashells at the bottom of the pool.
“Surely you are sad or angry too. Nothing can be happy or perfect all the time” I said doubtfully.
“Of course we do, but it’s like a storm or a rainbow: it feels like forever, but it passes and we go back to First Feeling and play.”
“You call it life. We call it play because we enjoy it more” she said smiling at me.
She blew a thin strand of seaweed that clung to her forehead and was falling in her eyes as she splashed the water with her toes, sending crystal droplets in the air. She was humming again.
“It is an unusual song you are singing. Is it a sprite song?” I asked.
“No. It comes from the sea. My friend Hermit taught it to me.”
“You have a friend named Kermit…”
“True enough. Is Hermit a sprite like you?”
Disappointment at my lack of intuitive understanding showed in her green eyes. Taking a deep breath, she said in a semi-patronizing way:
“Sprites don’t swim. Mermaids do but they don’t climb trees. To know sea things you have to be in it. Hermit is a crab. He lives in a shell but travels all over the seas and oceans where I can’t go. He told me about whales and dolphins singing and dancing. This is a whale song.”
I was still processing the hermit crab revelation and didn’t quite follow.
“So sprite, hmm, where and how did you meet Hermit?” I asked.
“Serendipity is how. This little pool is where. I was having a not so First Feeling day and I sniffled as Hermit was climbing out of the pool. He heard me, stopped and said: “Hey little chum, why so glum?” I don’t know why but I giggled and when I did, it tickled his antennas. And that was it. We became friends.
Hungry clouds covered the sun dulling all colours, snuffing out the lights in the pool and the sprite’s skin. The sea was rocking back and forth against the rocks and pebbles,in splashes and whooshes, a predictable pattern, sort of a heartbeat rhythm…
“Not your heartbeat. This is too slow; may be a whale’s.”
Lost in sensations, it took me a while to absorb her remark.
“How did you know what I was thinking, and what do you know about a whale’s heart?”
She shrugged: “I don’t know how, I just do. Sometimes, not always. And Hermit told me about whales.”
“Is he coming today? Are you waiting for him?”
She tilted her head in an amused gesture just as the sun broke free from the clouds. Gold flecks appeared in her eyes.
“I don’t know if he is coming; and no, I am not waiting for him. This calanque is my world, I play here, sing, dance, work… Why are you smiling? Sprites work too you know!”
I didn’t say a word, just nodded in agreement. Of course sprites work, I thought wryly.
She went on: “You see, Hermit wanders and explores the sea, his world, and because he carries his home, he never needs to go back somewhere. So he comes and goes as he wishes.” She seemed to be looking for something as she continued to explain: “If I wait for him and he doesn’t come, then my First Feeling will go away. Expectation postponed makes the heart sick.”
“You never know when you will see him?”
“It’s not quite like that. There is a good chance he will come in with a high tide, riding in easy. Sometimes I see him but he doesn’t stop here and we don’t speak. Every once in a while, my soul just knows, too.”
She found what she was looking for: a tiny fragment of pink mother-of-pearl, next to some polished pieces of driftwood. She held it with care, wet it in the pool and stuck it to the base of her throat, like a jewel, adding “But nothing is certain”.
Looking out past the outcrop of rocks jutting out into the sea, she seemed to drift off somewhere far away.
We sat there in the silence of our thoughts for a bit. Then she turned to me again and with a teacher’s voice she said:
“Expectations can bring disappointments. Uncertainty though carries hope within it and hope is the belladonna of life, it keeps the heart going. As for anticipation… Well, that carries its own brand of torture” she chuckled knowingly.
A seagull complained as it flew low, skimming the water in sure strokes. Some leaves rustled behind me. A scent of mimosa tumbled down the stairs and fell at our feet.
“Hermit wants to know about my world. I want to know about his. Neither of us can get there on our own. Do you understand?”
“I think so. You complete each other.”
She burst out laughing; a clear laughter like a mountain brook in summer.
“You are so funny! So rudimentary! No, we don’t. We can’t complete each other. Think about it, no one can ever complete another, it implies neither can function alone. It’s like saying a hummingbird completes honeysuckle or a clownfish a sea anemone… No, no, no. We feed each other what we need to live a richer life, a wider one, a more joyous one. It’s not about completeness, it’s about symbiosis. All of nature functions like this. Evolution is impossible without it, but it happens with adjustments and synchronicity…
And chew on this a while: imperfection is necessary to symbiosis. You have to love the imperfections, the flaws, and learn not to be hurt by them in order to thrive.”
I closed my eyes in the warmth of a sudden burst of sunshine and sat still letting it heat my face, and erase the cold. When I opened them again, the sprite was gone.
Thousands of mica stars sparkled and twinkled in the tide pool.
Two worlds in a daydream.